Although they emerge a bit later in life, when we’re older and (hopefully) wiser, wisdom teeth are known to be troublemakers. Also known as third molars, they can cause infections, swelling, headaches, and other oral health issues due to misalignment or impaction. And although wisdom teeth cause no harm if they are healthy and properly aligned, many dentists recommend wisdom teeth removal to prevent problems later in life.
What are wisdom teeth?
Wisdom teeth are our third (and final) set of molars. Most adults have four, but it is possible to have fewer or more than this. They emerge in our late teens or early twenties, after our other teeth have arrived, so sometimes there isn’t room for them to erupt properly. Because of this, many wisdom teeth emerge at an angle, fail to fully emerge, or crowd the other teeth. Wisdom teeth aren’t necessary for good oral health or a beautiful smile, so if they are expected to cause problems, dentists recommend wisdom teeth removal.
Why are wisdom teeth often removed?
As we mentioned above, wisdom teeth are known to come in at odd angles, and they often crowd the mouth and disrupt the positioning of neighboring teeth. Eruption of the wisdom teeth can also cause significant problems. For example, the teeth might fail to erupt fully, perhaps due to impaction (when a tooth is blocked as it is pushing through the gum). These issues can cause swollen gums, infected gums, pericoronitis, bad breath, headaches, the movement of teeth, and (of course) pain.
Through the years, your dentist will monitor your wisdom teeth using X-rays, tracking their development and eruption. If he or she notices impaction, improper alignment, or another issue, you may need to have the teeth removed.
What can I expect during wisdom teeth removal?
Before the procedure, discuss any questions you have about the surgery with your dentist. Many dentists refer their patients to an oral surgeon for wisdom teeth removal, and the procedure is completed in this specialist’s office. In rare cases, when the patient has a high risk for complications, the surgery will be completed in a hospital. You will need to take time off from work, school, childcare, etc. to have the surgery and rest afterward, so plan ahead. The surgery will take about 45 minutes or so, and you should plan to rest and recover for about three days afterward.
The extraction of wisdom teeth varies based on the tooth’s size, angle, depth, how much gum/bone is covering it, etc. To remove the teeth, the oral surgeon may need to cut your gums or bone. If this happens, he or she will stitch the wounds shut. In addition, some wisdom teeth are cut into smaller pieces to make them easier to remove. After the extraction, the surgeon will place gauze pads on the wounds to stop the bleeding.
Will the procedure hurt?
Anesthesia is used during the surgery to reduce your discomfort. Some procedures require only local anesthesia (a shot of Novocaine), which will make your mouth numb, and perhaps some laughing gas for relaxation. Others combine numbing Novocaine with IV sedation, which causes drowsiness. Still others use general anesthesia, which causes the patient to sleep through the entire surgery.
What can I expect after wisdom teeth removal?
Recovery varies widely based on the intensity of the surgery, the type of anesthesia used, and the patient’s reaction to the anesthesia. For example, if only Novocaine is needed, the patient may be able to drive home afterward. However, if you are still drowsy or incapacitated, you will need to ask someone you trust to drive you home.
In the hours and days that follow, you should expect some swelling and mild discomfort. Although you should feel better after about three days, your mouth may need weeks to heal completely. During your recovery, follow your oral surgeon’s instructions to care for your healing mouth and quicken your recovery time. For example, you may be advised to do the following:
- Use an ice pack to reduce swelling.
- Eat only soft foods like soup, pudding, and jello.
- Drink plenty of fluids.
- Don’t drink through a straw.
- Gently open and close your mouth to exercise the jaw.
- Brush your teeth on the second day and thereafter.
- Don’t brush against blood clots.
- Rinse your mouth with salt water to reduce the pain and swelling.
- Don’t rinse your mouth vigorously. Be gentle.
- Change the gauze pads if they become soaked with blood.
- Don’t smoke.
- Take any drugs prescribed by your doctor to reduce pain and swelling.
- Call your doctor if you have a fever, extreme pain, or unabating swelling.
Have your wisdom teeth been causing you pain? Or are you concerned about how they will affect your oral health in the future? Discuss your complaints and concerns with your dentist to decide if wisdom teeth removal is a good idea.
Finally, if you’re looking for an experienced, reliable, and friendly dentist in or near Springfield, Missouri, contact Wilkinson Dental. Dr. Wilkinson and his team will give you the personalized treatment you deserve using state-of-the-art technology. Schedule your first appointment today by calling 417-708-0556 or requesting an appointment online. We look forward to hearing from you!